Rick Sanders has studied the IT staffing and services industry from every angle. As former head of marketing at MATRIX, he understands the (sometimes conflicting) motivations of hiring managers, consultants, and IT job seekers. Along the way, Rick has participated in the evolution of marketing from the print, to digital interactive, social and beyond. Working now as a contractor, Rick offers acute insight into the contracting world based on his own experience.
Busting 5 Myths About IT Contracting
No one has a playbook for this. The now infamous 2020 pandemic has forced a new way of working and employers are figuring out how to adapt. From hiring freezes to the challenges that come along with virtual onboarding, companies are scrambling to find solutions to their many challenges.
One thing is for sure – if you are looking to land a new job, your chances are greater with contracting than full-time work right now. For those employers who are hiring, there is simply less risk to hire on contractors to supplement existing staff.
If you are wary to approach the contracting market, here are some timeless tips from consultants, recruiters and industry experts that may help you overcome your fears.
Myth #1: Contract income is lower than permanent.
BUSTED. Dice’s Tech Salary Survey showed that contractors earned $70.26 per hour (5.3% year-over-year increase), which would come out to a $140,520 salary assuming working one full year with a two-week vacation. Whereas the average full-time tech professional earned $93,902 in the same time frame (7% year-over-year increase).
Assuming you take a proactive approach to finding contracts, you will avoid gaps between contracts that could reduce these totals. Most contractors, in fact, do that. According to the American Staffing Association (ASA), 79 percent of temporary and contract employees work full time – virtually the same percentage as the rest of the workforce
"Quietly count your money and plan your move to the next gig," as one consultant says.
Myth #2: Your skills will become outdated.
BUSTED. “It is actually quite the opposite,” another consultant says. “Working with new teams, different cultures, technologies and projects as you move around --- this is what makes contracting more exciting and improves your knowledge base.”
Different experiences enrich your skills— keeping you marketable in a way that full-time employees (who are often stuck doing the same thing for years) typically can’t match. Want to learn something new? Take as many training courses as you wish. The only boss you answer to is you!
With cutting-edge skills and broad experience, you will be able to pick and choose where and when you work. You will also have the luxury of being in complete control of your professional destiny.
Myth #3: Working as a contractor will hurt my prospects of getting hired permanently.
BUSTED. Maybe 20 years ago this was true. Today there is no longer a stigma to contracting. “I haven’t heard any interviewer say ‘why are you contracting?’ in years”, said one San Francisco-based consultant, who added that most tech work these days is project based, perfect for the specialized talents that contractors bring to the table.
There is nothing wrong with highlighting contract work on a resume or LinkedIn profile as you search for a permanent position. “Bundle the jobs together if they are from the same company or through the same agency, and it spells out that you are a desirable, dependable employee,” one recruiter told us.
Many businesses view interim hiring as a way to evaluate individuals for full-time positions. By taking ownership of projects and striving to add value with every task, you can improve your odds of landing on your employer’s short list when it’s time to hire full time.
Myth #4: Contractors are viewed as 'them' and are often excluded from company's social circles.
BUSTED. Contracting is so mainstream today that some companies have more contract resources than full-time employees on staff. With contractors and full-time staff working on projects together, they have to work as tight-knit teams to be effective. “It would be crazy to alienate them,” said one project manager. “Think about how closely an agile development group has to collaborate.”
Many of today's contractors are millennials, an age group famous for needing more attention than older generations. The smartest companies are paying greater heed to contractor happiness as they set overall workforce strategy. Parties, events, happy hours, lunches, informal training sessions, and day-to-day socializing are becoming more open to contractors who wish to participate.
Myth #5: Work-life balance: contracting will take over my life.
BUSTED. Many contractors love the freedom to work for a few months or years and then take some time off. Assuming they don’t disappear from the market for too long, it shouldn’t hurt their future prospects.
Whereas full-timers usually have fixed work hours, contractors usually have more flexibility (great for working parents). “I work when I want to work,” said one working mother. “I often work hard for four days and take a half-day on Friday. With the independence of a contract, I’m my own boss. I often work from home. As long as I’m getting the work done, they’re good.”
Of course, there are many more myths about contracting to expose, but the five above are the ones that we hear most often.
Above all, stay safe and be flexible about your work options right now.